A military pinball game with a microphone?! Odama certainly got our attention. It sounded so weird, we just had to see it…
After a very long story – which i’m ignoring because it’s not interesting and way too complicated – we can start. I attached the microphone to the controller with the handy plastic piece and I’m ready to throw myself in the battle. The goal is pretty simple: take the bell through the gate before sunset. Your task is to protect the soldiers carrying the bell by using the Odama (the ball) and your troops.
You launch the Odama and learn the voice commands: Advance or Fall Back to make your soldiers march forwards or back, Press Forward to attack, March Left or March Right and finally Rally to collect your troops. Immediately it’s clear that you’ll have to keep talking if you want to accomplish something. Saying Press Forward once is practically not useful, you have to say the command over and over again. In no time you will find yourself shouting, completely frustrated.
In the fight around the bell, the number of soldiers is very important. The biggest group will push back the weaker one. To see how things are going, you can look at the numbers behind the E(nemy) and P(layer). With the Z button, you can send in some more troops, but this option is limited, so you better think about it first. Sometimes, it’s better to try to hit down enemy troops with the Odama. However, this isn’t so easy as it sounds. The ball doesn’t only hit enemies, it also knocks down your own troops.
When the Odama has a green glow – called Heavenly Odama – your troops won’t get hurt when you hit them. Even better, the enemy soldiers flattened by the Heavenly Odama, will join your own army. There are two ways to transform the Odama positively: collect hearts appearing on the field and hit the bell when it has a white glow or let the Odama roll over a green power up. After a short period of time, the green glow disappears automatically and you’ll have to watch carefully where you shoot the ball. The contrary is possible too: an Evil Odama harms your own troops, but doesn’t hurt the enemy.
To make it all a little more complicated, you can also select a certain group of soldiers with the cursor to obey your voice commands. Furthermore, objects appear in the field. You send your soldiers to get them by selecting the objects with the cursor and shouting Rally. This way, you can grab a key to open a locked gate.
As if all this isn’t enough, you also have to keep an eye on your troops morale. If they are depressed, they won’t listen to your commands. Their mood can drop if you hit your own soldiers with the Odama, if the bell group is pushed back by the enemy or if you use a certain voice command. Sending some more troops to the field or letting them take a rice ball, one of the objects, make their morale go up again.
However, there is also a tactical possibility of using the rice balls. You can grab them by rolling the Odama over them and then you can shoot them with your canon. If the rice ball lands close by the enemy soldiers, they will stop fighting and eat the rice instead. This can be the ideal diversion to lead your own troops to victory. The Odama also plays an important part near rivers and bridges. Drowning some enemy troops can always come in handy.
It’s generally known that woman can multi task. However, keeping the Odama in the field, giving voice commands to your troops to protect the soldiers carrying the bell, grabbing objects and keeping an overview really is too much for one person! Oh and don’t forget to add some spontaneous surprises, like temporarily loosing control of the flippers because your base is under attack. Biggest disadvantage of the game is that only the troops that enter the gate with the bell are available in the next level. In other words, if you do bad in the very first level, you will barely have troops left to play the next one. This way, the weak get punished, a very strange choice if you ask me. It doesn’t motivate you to play the game very thoroughly.
With Odama the developers tried to combine pinball with a military war game and voice technology. We can only be happy they dare to innovate, but this experiment just isn’t working. Often the game is too chaotic and frustrating. Maybe you can enjoy the game if you spend enough time trying to figure it all out, but the long learning curve will definitely disappoint a lot of gamers.